2017 INFINITI QX30 Test Drive Review

QX30

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2017 INFINITI QX30 Test Drive Review

Front 3/4 of the 2017 Infiniti QX30 This hatchback might be in denial of the fact that it's actually a wagon, but it's still plenty fun to drive.

8 /10
Overall Score

Crossovers are the hottest segment in the automotive landscape, and compact crossovers represent the hot spot within that booming category. Infiniti had a high-riding wagon in the form of the EX35 (the current QX50), but it needed something fresh and new in a hurry. So what to do? Rather than building a whole new tiny SUV from the ground up, it borrowed from a competitor.

In an unlikely arrangement between Mercedes-Benz and Infiniti parent company Renault, the German automaker provided Infiniti with the GLA-Class platform as the basis of an all-new compact crossover: the 2017 Infiniti QX30.

Originally, the QX30 was supposed to be two separate vehicles; the Q30 hatchback and the QX30 crossover. Infiniti has revamped the names for its entire lineup, replacing the G37 with the Q50 and the M37 with the Q70. Each crossover and SUV model became a QX, followed by a number based on its size. The brass at Infiniti must have felt that two very similar cars with two different names was confusing, so it combined the two, violating its own naming convention… which is also confusing.

Look and Feel

9/ 10

Despite the strong (and we mean strong) presence of Mercedes-Benz DNA, Infiniti did a good job making the QX30 its own car. You might not know the two were related if you weren’t already aware of the connection. The QX30 has the rakish headlights and large, bold grille that have become hallmarks of Infiniti's current lineup. Unlike rival Japanese luxury brand Lexus, the Infiniti grille manages to be contemporary, aggressive, and refined. Lexus grilles lack that final positive.

The hood, sides, and rear end of the QX30 are all extremely sculpted, and the windshield is very sloped. Together, these elements give the QX30 the impression of motion, even when at rest.

You can visually differentiate the two versions of the QX30 based on ride height and a few other visual cues. In addition to sitting lower, the front-wheel-drive (FWD) QX30 has a cleaner look to the front and rear bumpers. The QX30 AWD rides taller and has more “armor” cladding on the front and rear, which means it has plastic bits that are supposed to give the impression that it can go off road. We’d stick with dirt roads.

Inside, the QX30 shows some signs of its Mercedes-Benz roots. The steering wheel, trip computer, Start button, and even the key fob and seat controls on the door (rather than down on the side of the seat) are all very Mercedes. But the design is different enough that you don’t feel like you’re in a GLA. The seats are Infiniti, and so is the infotainment system, which helps the QX30 offer great value over the GLA (more on that later).

There are four QX30 trims: Base, Luxury, Premium, and Sport. The Base and Sport are available exclusively with front-wheel drive (FWD). Base comes standard with LED headlights, 18-inch alloy wheels, auto-dimming/heated side mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, cloth seats, Bluetooth hands-free calling and streaming audio, 2 USB ports, and a backup camera. The FWD-only Sport model gets 19-inch alloy wheels, unique front and rear fascias, upgraded brakes, suspension and exhaust finishers, and Dinamica sport seats and trim.

The Premium trim adds leather seating, power/heated front seats, and side mirrors that fold down when in reverse. The Luxury trim is the top of the range and includes everything from the Premium as well as a Bose 10-speaker audio system, rain-sensing wipers, LED fog lights, and heated windshield washers.

Performance

8/ 10

Even the powertrain comes out of the GLA. The QX30's turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 makes the same 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, sent through a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. Power is sent to the front wheels or available all-wheel drive (AWD), as is the case in our test model.

This was the same setup as a GLA I drove about a year ago, and I did not love it. In the GLA, acceleration was very sluggish. The GLA’s ride was too stiff over bumps to be a good crossover and too soft in cornering to be a good hot hatch. But much to my surprise, this was not the case in the QX30.

Maybe I just knew to turn off the jerky Stop-Start function or immediately click the drive-mode selector from Economy to either Sport or Manual, but the QX30 can move. It doesn’t provide immediate acceleration, but once it gets deep into its tall first gear, it offers a swell of acceleration.

Cornering is strong, too—Infiniti must have worked over the suspension. The QX30 drives as differently from the GLA as it looks from the Mercedes SUV. You just need to compensate for the soft gas pedal and brakes. The brakes themselves are not soft—just the initial feel of the pedal.

Fuel economy for the FWD model is 24 mpg city, 33 highway, 27 combined. The AWD claims 21 mpg city, 30 highway, 25 combined.

Form and Function

6/ 10

The QX30 suffers from the same pitfall of many compact crossovers: It doesn’t offer much in the way of utility or cargo space. Trunk space is 19.2 cubic feet, which is middle of the pack for compact crossovers. With the rear seats down, the QX30 provides just 34 cubic feet. That falls well behind the Audi Q3 (48.2 cubic feet) and the BMW X1 (58.7 cubic feet).

In addition to this, the BMW X1 comes standard with a power liftgate—something not even offered as an option on the QX30. In a market where SUVs now offer power hatches with hands-free opening functions, the absence of any type of power hatch is a glaring omission for a “utility vehicle.”

The rear seats are tight, too. The only place that’s really comfortable is the front row, where there's plenty of headroom. That said, the footwells are a little tight. Blame it on my size-14 winter boots, but I could barely get my right foot down to the pedals.

Tech Level

8/ 10

There might be a lot of Mercedes parts in the QX30, but the infotainment system is all Infiniti, and that’s the best argument for choosing this over a GLA. Unlike the new dual-screen InTouch system that's frustrating in the Q50, the QX30 features the older single-screen touchscreen system, and that’s the best thing going for it.

This system also uses a basic controller down in the center console, but you can get away without using it (other than to hit the Navigation and Map buttons). Layout and use make sense, and the ability to physically touch an icon on the screen is something you can’t do in the GLA—or the BMW X1 or Audi Q3, for that matter.

One area that shows the infotainment system's age is its voice-recognition software. We’ve become spoiled by the latest crop of cars, which can understand even the most complex or garbled commands. You might ask to find a coffee shop on the map, and it might try calling Uncle Earle.

But the fact the QX30 has an actual touchscreen is a value-add that cannot be understated.

Our test model also had the LED package, which featured interior ambient lighting, automatic high beams, and headlights that turn with the wheel. The automatic high beams’ transition from low to high is very subtle and a very thoughtful feature for long drives.

Safety

10/ 10

The QX30 comes standard with a full array of front and side-impact airbags, the LATCH child-seat anchoring system, Vehicle Dynamic Control, traction control, and a tire pressure monitoring system.

Our test model came with the available Technology Package. Although you might balk at a $2,000 option package, it comes with blind-spot warning, lane-departure warning, high-beam assist, and a surround-view monitor with parking sensors.

Many current automobiles offer a surround-view system, but Infiniti knows how to employ it as well as anyone. The QX30's 360-degree camera system automatically activates when the proximity sensors are triggered. If you are parallel parking and want to get nice and snug up to the car in front of you, simply press the Camera button next to the controller dial, and it enlarges the image from the front camera. The whole system is very seamless and a must-have for city drivers.

This package also included Intelligent Cruise Control++. This system not only matches the speed of the car in front of it, but it can do this in stop-and-go traffic. We tried this in gridlocked Boston, and sure enough, when traffic would grind to a halt, so would the QX30—without using the gas or brake pedals. You can set the distance pretty close; we were about 20 feet behind the car ahead of us. Staying close is crucial to keeping cars from routinely cutting into your lane.

Cost-Effectiveness

7/ 10

MSRP for a 2017 Infiniti QX30 Base is $29,950. A Sport, also available exclusively with FWD, starts at $38,500. A Luxury trim starts at $32,600 or $34,400 for the Luxury AWD. The Premium starts at $35,300 and costs $37,700 with AWD.

Our QX30 Premium AWD test model came with the Technology package ($2,000), Café Teak Theme package ($1,750), LED package ($1,000), Navigation package ($1,850), and illuminated kick plates ($540). Along with a $995 destination charge, our test model stickers for $46,035.

That’s a lot for a car that doesn’t even offer the option of a power rear hatch (let alone one that opens hands-free), but the Mercedes-Benz DNA conjures up Germany’s little luxury utes. The Audi Q3, Mercedes-Benz GLA, and BMW X1 start at $31K, $32K, and $33K, respectively—and you can be confident prices only shoot up from there with options.

In this context, the QX30 is a solid value, but it still has an identity crisis. No one should confuse this with an SUV. The QX30 should just own that it is a hot hatch and stick to the streets. But buyers want small SUVs, so for now, Infiniti’s QX30 is a road-going wagon with luxury, style, and performance that masquerades as an SUV.

Updated

From open-wheel racecars to specialty off-road vehicles, George Kennedy has driven it all. A career automotive journalist, George has been a contributor, editor, and/or producer at some of the most respected publications and outlets, including Consumer Reports, the Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, Autoblog.com, Hemmings Classic Wheels, BoldRide.com, the Providence Journal, and WheelsTV.

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